UMass' loss to Rhode Island and UConn's poor play in 2012 (3-7) hurt both teams in this week's projections, as Harvard continues to be the one sure thing in New England. Boston University continued their streaky play, as the Terriers have won two in a row, after losing two crucial conference games.
Welcome to our fourth edition of New England College Basketball Bracketology. From the middle of January until the NCAA Tournament, NIT, CBI and CIT brackets are revealed in March, I will bring you a weekly look at where each of the seven teams we cover here at SBNation Boston stand in their quest for postseason play. Occasionally we will give shout outs to other teams from New England but the focus will be on UConn, Boston College, Harvard, UMass, Boston University, Northeastern and Holy Cross. With three teams hanging around the 10+ games over .500 mark and Boston University on fire, we could easily match last season's four postseason bids (2 NCAA: UConn and Boston University, 2 NIT: Harvard and Boston College). This week we bring you what the best of the best think; I took a look at the top three bracket predictors over the past three years according to the Bracket Project's detailed analysis, to see what they thought about our local teams.
The Bracket Project weighed each bracket based on correct teams, correct seeds and partial credit for seeds within one line, they did not include bracketologists that had only started publishing their results the past two years. Our three bracketologists of the week are: #1 Bracketville (10.8 points above average), Shawn Siegel from College Hoops Net (10.6 points above) and not surprisingly their own bracket (10.17 above).
1. Harvard Crimson (20-2, 4-0 Ivy League/RPI (RealtimeRPI.com) 40)
Best Wins: 46-41 vs. Florida State (Nov. 25 neutral court), 74-69 vs. St. Joseph's (Dec. 31), 59-49 vs. Central Florida (Nov. 26 neutral court)
Worst Losses: 60-54 @ Fordham (Jan. 3)
Record Vs. Teams In The Field (within top 68 of the Matrix): 1-1
With two more wins this past weekend, Harvard set two programs records: for best overall start (20-2) and best start in conference (6-0). They can accomplish an even bigger feat this weekend with wins on the road at Ivy League foes Pennsylvania and Princeton. The two Mid-Atlantic Ivies could be the Crimson's biggest threat in the conference, with Yale, a team Harvard already beat on the road, making a push as well. Pennsylvania is one of two teams (Yale) right behind Harvard with one loss in the standings and could cause the Crimson troubles. The Quakers have beaten two straight good teams at home (St. Joseph's and Princeton) and took Harvard to the limit last season at the Palestra (83-82 2OT Harvard win). Princeton might be an even more difficult task. Despite a 2-3 record in conference, the Tigers won two of three against the Crimson last season and have one of the best players in the conference in junior forward Ian Hummer (17.1 ppg, 7.6 rbg). Saturday night's game in New Jersey will be televised on ESPNU and is a must-watch game, a Crimson sweep would mean Harvard fans could almost begin the countdown to their first ever NCAA Tournament game.
Projection: 100% Chance of Postseason (95% NCAA, 100% NIT): Harvard is listed as a nine/ten by Bracketville, a nine by the Bracket Project but gets some major respect from Siegel who slots them in as a seven seed. The Crimson's best bet for a tournament run is probably in the 7-10 game, but I wouldn't put it past the Crimson to be a giant slayer in Round Two no matter where they're placed.
2. UConn Huskies (15-8, 5-6 Big East/RPI (RealTime RPI.com): 25)
Best Wins: 64-57 vs. West Virginia (Jan. 9), 67-53 vs. #24 Harvard (Dec. 8), 67-53 @ Notre Dame (Jan. 14), 78-76 vs. Florida St (Nov. 26 neutral court),
Worst Losses: 67-60 @ Rutgers (Jan. 7), 60-57 @ Tennessee (Jan 21)
Record Vs. Teams in The Field: 6-5
National media member are having to delve deeper and deeper into their thesaurus to find ways to describe the ineptitude of this Huskies squad. In the past week, UConn has turned in their new worst performance of the year twice, on national television, as last night's 80-59 loss was virtually unwatchable if you're among the Connecticut faithful. With Jim Calhoun out of the picture, the focus has to be turned completely on the players and that might not be a bad thing. UConn still has the talent to be a Top-10 team, but they just haven't shown that for any sustained period this season. While some people keep going back to the failure of the 2009-2010 squad, this is a new season, with a different cast and it's possible for them to turn it around. As bad they've been in 2012 (3-7), they're still in every major bracketologists' projections and get a chance to earn a huge victory at least once a week.
Projection: 100% Chance of Postseason (90% NCAA Tournament, 100% NIT): The Huskies provide just as much variety as the Crimson, as they earn an eight (Bracketville), nine (Siegel) and 10 from (The Bracket Project). As much as Huskies fans would prefer a top four of five seed again, no opponent is going to be happy seeing UConn in their region-especially on weekend number one.
3. UMass Minutemen (17-6, 6-3 Atlantic 10/RPI: 68)
Best Wins: 72-59 vs. St. Louis (Jan. 28) 73-65 vs. Davidson (Dec. 23), 71-62 vs. St. Joseph's (Jan. 14),
Worst Losses: 81-78 OT @ Rhode Island (Feb. 1)85-61 vs. College of Charleston (Nov. 26 neutral court), Record Vs. Teams In The Field: 2-1
Dolt! Yup just as I expected, UMass came out a little flat against 5-19 Rhode Island and blemished their resume with their worst loss of the year, after earning their best win two weekends ago (St. Louis). It's easy to forget the Minutemen are extremely young, and that's been their biggest problem all season long. Playing at home with the UMass faithful cheering them on, the Minutemen are 11-0, but they're just 6-6 in non-home games, and even that record is slightly inflated. The loss pushed UMass out of a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 and thus out of any bracket and into the bottom tier of the NIT pool. And a loss to Rhode Island merits that plunge; the Rams have been that bad this year. The good news is that UMass slightly salvaged the week with a win at George Washington and now has six straight opportunities to improve their resume. It all starts Wednesday, when the Minutemen host 5-3 St. Bonaventure.
Projection: 70% Chance of Postseason (15% NCAA Tournament, 80% NIT, 60% CBI/CIT): It was a bad week for UMass and the Atlantic 10 in general, as UMass is not listed in any of our three brackets and the conference is down to three bids in each projection (Xavier, St. Louis, Temple). UMass still has a shot at the NCAA Tournament without winning the Atlantic 10, but it would involve a 6-1 finish, with wins at Temple and St. Joseph's and a home win over Xavier.
4. Boston University Terriers (13-13, 9-3 America East/RPI: 167)
Best Wins: 61-55 vs. Stony Brook (Jan. 14), 81-78 @ Albany (Feb. 6), 75-61 @ Boston College (Dec. 3)
Worst Losses: 71-66 @ Cornell (Nov. 20), 68-67 Vermont (Feb. 1)
Record Vs. Teams In The Field: 1-4
Boston University should start calling themselves the "Cardiac Kids," after two huge comebacks this week that ended slightly differently. Wednesday the Terriers weren't ready for rivals Vermont and got bludgeoned around for 35 minutes, before mounting a furious rally. When the dust settled, Boston University fell one point shy in their quest to come back from a 16-point deficit with 3:28 to go. Last night the Terriers showed that they had learned from the Vermont loss. Trailing by 16 with 11:23 to go, Boston University started the comeback much earlier and hung on for a thrilling 81-78 victory on the road. What does it all mean? Well Boston University won't have the security of the top spot in the America East Conference and will have to potentially go on the road to Stony Brook or Vermont, if they want to go back to the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. It also means coach Joe Jones needs to figure out a way to get his team started faster, in both games the Terriers looked sluggish and like a completely different team in the first half.
Projection: 15% Chance of Postseason (16% NCAA Tournament, 5% NIT): Boston University still has a long way to go if they're going to win three straight win-or-go home games in March; unfortunately for the Terriers, they're down to their final five games before the America East Tournament.
5. Northeastern University (11-12, 7-6 Colonial Athletic Association/RPI: 153)
Best Wins: 60-57 vs. Georgia St (Jan. 18) 78-64 @ St. Johns (Nov. 26), 82-74 OT @ Boston University (Nov. 11)
Worst Losses: 56-53 @ Louisiana Tech (Dec. 20), 79-68 @ Bradley (Dec. 6)
Record Vs. Teams In The Field: 0-1
Northeastern's another team that has struggled this season because of their extreme youth and lack of chemistry. The Huskies have four freshmen among their top 10 rotation players and two other players who played seven or less games for the Huskies last season. Bill Coen has done a great job putting out a competitive team, but they aren't quite there yet in terms of winning. Their biggest problem has been finding enough scoring after losing leading scorer Chaisson Allen to graduation. Northeastern is 10th out of 12 teams in the CAA in scoring, averaging just 61.3 points per game, which is 305th out of 344 teams nationally. The lack of scoring has killed the Huskies in their past two losses, as they fell to conference leaders Drexel and at Virginia Commonwealth, while averaging just 54.5 points.
Projection: 3% Chance of Postseason Play (1% NCAA Tournament, 0% NIT, 15% CBI/CIT): Northeastern's best and only chance to play postseason basketball this year is to finish strong (4-2/5-1) and hope that a fifth place finish in the CAA is enough to get into the CBI or CIT. Remember both tournaments are not obligated to take the teams with the best records or best resumes, but also take into account the teams who want their players to have the chance to play in the postseason the most.
6. Holy Cross Crusaders (9-13, 3-5 Patriot League/RPI: 217)
Best Wins: 84-78 vs. Lehigh (Jan. 7), 88-83 vs. San Francisco (Dec. 22)
Worst Losses: 72-60 @ Maine (Nov. 27), 54-43 vs. Lafayette (Jan. 19)
Record Vs. Teams In the Field: 0-3
I'm running short on things to say about the Crusaders after their latest blowout loss (75-51 at Lehigh). In the team's first nine losses, they only dropped two games by more than 15 points, including a 37-point drubbing at what looked like a dominant team in UConn. Over their past three road game, not coincidentally all losses, the team has been blown away twice, including with a 34-point loss at Bucknell and a 24-point defeat at Lehigh. Both teams are conference powers and have been easily beating the rest of the Patriot League but not to the degree they knocked off the Crusaders. Bucknell's margin of victory was their largest of the season and it was Lehigh's biggest in conference play.
Projection .3% Chance of Postseason Play (.3% NCAA Tournament): Holy Cross' struggles aren't necessarily surprising, they're 26-56 over the past three seasons, but the fact that this team is falling this fast certainly can't help Milan Brown's job security at all.
7. Boston College Eagles (7-16, 2-7 Atlantic Coast Conference/RPI: 235)
Best Wins: 61-59 vs. Virginia Tech (Jan. 14), 59-57 vs. Clemson (Jan. 12)
Worst Losses: 78-72 2OT vs. Rhode Island (Jan. 2), 75-61 vs. Boston University (Dec. 3)
Record Vs. Teams In The Field: 1-6
The losing streak has reached six games out in Chestnut Hill and might not end until the final week of February, if at all this season. Boston College has now lost two in a row by five points or less, but they just don't have the finishing capability against good teams, or against anyone on the road. This week I wanted to recognize junior forward Matt Humphrey for his play and leadership. The Oregon transfer was supposed to come in and make an instant impact on the offensive end, but started off poorly which drew a lot of criticism. I was one of those critics, but I've been pretty impressed by Humphrey and his ACC play. Humphrey has scored in double-figures in five of the team's nine conference games (he accomplished the feat just seven times in 14 non-conference games) and has slowly become the team's leading scorer. His improvement hasn't come at the expense of the team's youth movement either, as he's happy to defer to freshmen like Dennis Clifford and Ryan Anderson, even in crunch time.
Projection: .1% Chance of Postseason Play (.1% NCAA Tournament): There's always the Beanpot right?